Wave of Mexico attacks kills 22, including a dozen police, in one day

Eleven police officers killed in Guerrero state, with attacks also taking place in Michoacan and Puebla.

A police helicopter files over the area where police officers were killed in an ambush by criminal groups in Coyuca de Benitez, state of Guerrero, Mexico
Mexico is scourged by cartel-linked crime that has seen more than 420,000 people killed since the government initiated a so-called war on drugs in 2006 [Francisco Robles/AFP]

At least 22 people, including a dozen police officers, have been killed in a spate of violence in central and southwestern Mexico in just one day, according to authorities.

In the most severe attack on Monday, unidentified assailants struck a security patrol in Guerrero state’s municipality of Coyuca de Benitez, shooting dead 11 municipal police officers. This brought the number of officers killed this year to more than 340, according to non-profit group Causa en Comun.

Prosecutor Alejandro Hernandez said authorities were still investigating the motive for the attack in Guerrero, which is one of Mexico’s poorest states and a flashpoint of violence between drug traffickers and police.

In the state of Michoacan, just north of Guerrero, gunmen killed five people while targeting the brother of a local mayor, who was injured in the assault, the state prosecutor said. The bodies of the five dead, including that of a police officer, were found on a highway in the town of Tacambaro.

In the third attack, a gun battle between alleged drug dealers in Puebla killed at least six and wounded two, according to the regional government. The clash took place in the rural community of San Miguel Canoa, some 120km (75 miles) from the capital, Mexico City.

Mexico map

War on drugs

Mexico is scourged by cartel-linked crime that has seen more than 420,000 people murdered since the government initiated a so-called war on drugs in 2006.

Since then, the country’s murder rate has tripled to 25 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Mexico has also tracked more than 110,000 disappearances since 1962, most attributed to criminal organisations.

Guerrero and Michoacan are among the country’s most turbulent regions due to frequent clashes between vying drug traffickers and security forces.

Violence – especially directed at low-level officials – frequently spikes in the lead-up to elections. Mexico is set to hold presidential polls in June 2024 that will see former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum facing off with opposition lawmaker Xochitl Galvez as its candidate.

Still, experts said the sudden burst of violence was “extraordinary” even for the context.

“Guerrero has long seen one of Mexico’s most complicated armed conflicts, but the current, pre-electoral levels of violence are extraordinary,” Falko Ernst, an analyst at International Crisis Group, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Since assuming office in 2018, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has advocated for a “hugs not bullets” approach to address violent crime.

The strategy focuses on addressing the underlying causes of violent crime by combating poverty and inequality through social programmes rather than relying on military force.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies